Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ask TalentSprint

I was unable to attend all the questions in the recent RRB exam. I could not answer around 30 questions at the end. Though I am confident that most of the questions answered by me were right, am not sure, if I would make it in this exam.  How can I manage my time in order to improve my performance?

Time Management is probably the most important factor for cracking a bank exam.  While there is no single technique for managing time effectively, some of the best practices followed by successful candidates are listed here under for your immediate reference.

a. Resource Allocation: Allocating requisite time for each section 
All the sections are important for cracking the bank exam. Hence, it is important to have time allocated across all the sections so that each of the section gets its rightful share of the most critical resource – time.

That does not mean that you allocate time equally across these sections. There are certain areas which actually require more time and there are certain areas. For example, it is possible to answer questions in English and General Knowledge more quickly than quantitative aptitude & reasoning questions requiring multiple steps and calculations.

Further, in sections like GK and English, you either know the answer or you don’t and hence it is easy to manage time effectively which may not be the case with other sections.

Hence, you have to be mentally prepared to allocate time for each of the sections which enables you to attempt all the sections so as to become eligible for staking a claim for your job with the Bank.

b. Divide and Rule: Sequence your sections depending on your strengths and weakness
One more area which requires planning is to identify sections between:

Scoring Sections: 
Scoring sections are areas of strength which will enable you to score more.  End of the day, it is the total scores which matter though subject to section level eligibility cut off. Ideally, you should have minimum 2 sections, if not more in this category. While preparing for the examination, this should be identified and worked on.

Quick Fire Sections:  
The sections which will enable you to save time so that you can completely quickly so as to get the benefit of time for focusing on scoring sections and to qualify in sections of difficulty. There should ideally be 2 sections which enables you to save time in order to enable you focus on scoring sections.

Qualifying Sections: 
The sections which are both time consuming and not the area of strength for you to score high marks come under this category. The focus here should be to achieve over and above the normal cut off marks in these section. Ideally,  there should not be more than 1 section in this category.

c. Choose Wisely: Choosing the questions to answer
Boundaries, Quick Singles and Dot Balls – all of them are part of building a successful cricket innings.  Similar mix will be there in a bank exam and questions have to be chosen for scoring Boundaries and Quick Singles and similarly it would be wise to leave certain questions.

Boundary opportunities come when there are multiple questions with single inputs.  Yes, like in cricket there is a risk return trade off. If you get it right, you get good marks and when you don’t, good amount of time gets wasted.  In fact, a lot of preparation has to go in to ensuring that typical boundary scoring opportunities at the examination are exploited.

Singles constitute a large part of the scoring opportunities. However, the same has to be highly calculated and high amount of risk has to be avoided.  In fact, you face the risk of reducing your score through negative marks if care is not taken for these singles.

Dot Balls, or questions which should be left out without answering are the next category as they may result in time wastages and energy drains. Having dot balls in an innings is not bad as long as all the possible scoring opportunities in the other balls are fully exploited.

Further, it is normally observed that the difficulty level of questions increase in the earlier part of each section with easier questions at the end (Free Hits & Slog Overs). Hence, you should have enough time for going till the end of each section within the allocated time for each of the section .

d. Avoid Traps: Avoiding energy drainers
It is normally seen that each question paper has a few question, which looks very easy on the face of it, but requires large number of calculations & operations to come out with the answer.  These questions are typically planted to look at how one avoids these pitfalls to look at how you use your decision making abilities.

e. Experience it: 
While it is easy to list out the steps, unless one implements the process practically it is difficult to arrive at the right strategy to take up the exam. Hence, it is important to take Mock Tests which closely resembles the actual examination condition (including timing, question paper format etc.) so that you implement your strategy for the exam and modify the same to the extent required in order to be ready for the Examination.

Wishing you the very best in becoming a Bank Officer soon.

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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Banking Careers

Banks provide a great career opportunity for graduates with good aptitude and communication skills. Over the next 5 years, Indian public sector banks are expected hire around 7.5 lac entry level professionals.

Getting into a PSU bank job is generally through a competitive examination. The eligibility criteria are very basic and there are no restriction on the course one has done. One could be a technical graduate, management graduate, commerce graduate or for that matter arts graduate to stake a claim for a PSU Bank job. What one has to do is to clear the examination and go through the other selection processes including Group Discussions and Interview which are common for all graduates.

While the eligibility criteria may vary depending on the requirements, typical eligibility criteria is graduation with specific Age criteria. The opportunities for entering in to a bank are multi fold and are as under:

The table below provides the details of expected frequency in notifications for examinations / jobs over the next couple of years.
Category Probationary Officer Specialist Officer Clerical
Common Written Examination – 19 banks Twice a Year Twice a Year Twice a Year
State Bank Once a Year
Once a Year
Associate Banks of State Banks Once a Year
Once a Year
RBI When required When required When required
CWE – RRBs When Required When required When required
NABARD When Required When required When required
Others When Required When required When required

In terms of number of Jobs CWE, State Bank and State Bank associates provide large opportunity for the aspirants. Between these, it is expected that around 6-10 examination opportunities will be presented to the aspirants every year. While all graduates are eligible for PO post, they are also eligible to apply under clerical cadre, where the number of jobs are expected to be higher and hence selection opportunity higher.

Specialist Officers:
Banks require professionals across the spectrum including technology, marketing, agriculture, engineering etc. Those who are professionally qualified in these fields are eligible to stake their claim for a Specialist Officer post. While the number of posts in these are generally lower, this provides a great opportunity for aspirants to continue to be in their line of professional education and pursue a career in the highly attractive banking domain.

Do You Know?
All the CMDs and MDs of Indian PSU Banks joined the PSU Bank as a Probationary Officer or a Clerk (through a similar process of selection – viz. competitive exam, interview etc.). Over their career spanning 25-30 years, they have moved up the ranks to reach the top post. Interestingly, Banks take people at the entry level and help grow up the ladder and do not recruit laterals from competition.

Most of the officer recruited in a Bank are generalist who are given exposure across various banking operations over their career span, enabling an individual to get completely rounded as a thoroughbred professional banker.

General Selection Process:
The general selection process for a PSU Bank job includes:
  1. Applying for a Bank Examination following notification from the relevant institution
    1. IBPS – for Common Written Examination catering to 19 PSU Banks
    2. SBI – for career in SBI / its associates
    3. IBPS – for career in regional rural banks
    4. IDBI / RBI / NABARD – for a job with these institutions
  2. Taking up the examination conducted
    1. Single or double level tests – Aptitude test which is objective followed by descriptive tests for SBI PO/ CWE PO etc.
  3. Those who are selected in the examination go through the further rounds
    1. With respect to CWE, candidates need to apply individually for each of the banks based on their eligibility (w.r.t. qualification, age and cut off marks in CWE)
    2. Generally next steps include Group Discussion and Interview
  4. Those who successfully go through the selection process gets recruited and go through training with the bank

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Five Success Mantras for Cracking the Bank Exam

Indian PSU banks provide an excellent opportunity for graduates. More than 7.5 lac freshers will be recruited by Indian PSU banks over the next 5 years. While the jobs are aplenty, the competition for these jobs is equally high.

But preparation for the exam is key. The success rate is only 1.5% - what this means is less than 2 out of 100 aspirants that take the bank exam actually get a job. Banks select freshers for their aptitude and train them in banking enabling them to move up the value chain. Hence, cracking the aptitude test is the first major hurdle for the aspirants.

Selection Process for Bank Exam
Only 5 – 10% make it through the Elimination round of the Aptitude Test. Hence it is critical to prepare and make sure you cross this first hurdle successfully.
Five success mantras for cracking this examination.

  1. Take Stock: Knowing where you stand on your Ability to Crack the Aptitude Test
  2. Know the Game: Know the examination process and procedure
  3. Get Trained: Get help - Professional Coaching
  4. Practice, Practice and more practice
  5. Just do it

1. Take Stock: Knowing where you stand:

This area is normally and easily overlooked by aspirants. Bank exams test only basic Aptitude, and hence it is easy to ignore the need for development and falling on the trap ‘I know all these things’.
Yes, the fact is that the exam covers basic arithmetic and aptitude. However, what gets overlooked is the need for speed coupled with Accuracy. In a typical examination, there is a major time pressure. One has to answer 250 questions in 150 minutes – a mere 36 seconds for each question.
Hence, knowing how to solve a problem does not suffice, knowing how quickly you can do the same correctly is the key. Hence, taking stock of where you stand with respect to speed and accuracy on various topics that get covered in this exam is a must.
The best way to know where you are is to take mock tests and get to know where you stand in terms of the marks scored by you, the time taken and compare your marks with the cut off marks and marks scored by other aspirants.

2. Know the Game: Know the examination

The next step is to understand the examination. While the knowledge required for most aptitude tests are the same, the strategy to handle the examination will differ significantly depending on the exam itself.
For eg., the Common Written Examination (CWE) conducted by IBPS, looks for one to be well rounded across multiple areas. Hence, there are individual cutoffs for each section. If one is strong in say English & have the ability to score very high, it will help his cause in selection. However, as a prerequisite one has to cross the cut off mark in each of the 5 sections. Thus, if one scores very high in English and very low in say GK, he/she will not qualify in spite of the total marks being better than the average cut-offs. This needs to be understood and there are many other things. Some of the key areas are:
  1. Qualifying marks in each section
  2. Negative marks
  3. Questions with differing difficulties & strategy for handling
  4. Time management in line with the above pattern
Taking guidance on each of the exam and its uniqueness will go a long way in creating a suitable strategy for one in attacking this examination.

3. Professional Coaching

Another frequently raised question among aspirants is that ‘is there a need for professional coaching for bank exam?’
This arises generally from the fact that as confident individuals we tend to believe that we are ready for the challenge and we can crack any examination as we know most of the concepts. This confidence is absolutely necessary. However, confidence alone is not sufficient.
We need to understand the fact that a person who has an above average aptitude levels has a fair chance to crack the exam irrespective of coaching. However, if professional coaching helps him to get 10-20 additional marks, this can make a huge difference – because the competition is very high and every additional mark is a value.
Yes, many people believe that what is covered in the bank exam coaching were taught in school. But the fact is, most of us tend to forget what was taught in school and a refresher is a must for one to be ready for facing the competition with time deadlines.
In addition to preparation, the benefit of professional coaching includes an ability to create a strategy for the examination, understand what other aspirants are doing and also get more focused attention on exam-specific development which will come handy in the GK section of the examination.

4. Practice, Practice and more practice

Practice makes a man perfect it is said and this is definitely not without reason. More the time spent in practice, better is the efficiency in the examination. Take Sachin for example, he has made it a habit of practising and more he practices, more efficient he becomes at the crease. Higher the efforts prior to the examination, better is the efficiency during the examination.
Hence, a serious contender who is keen to land a job in banking needs to put in hours and hours of hard work, which has the ability to provide rewards in multiples.
The practice must be well directed. A misdirected practice has the danger of derailing your preparation. If the Australian team spends hours and hours of practice for playing a short pitch ball for a tour to India – is it going to be of any value? Similarly, for any examination, practice has to be focused and in line with the requirements.
A professional guidance in understanding the areas which require practice will go a long way in making one better equipped to crack the bank examination

5. Just do it

Like in most things in life, success comes to those who enjoy what they are doing. Yes, Bank exam preparation can be an arduous task. However, one has to enjoy going through the preparation. Those who enjoy this hard work will relish the same in the future. So put in your hard work with your own heart and see how the whole world works towards making your dream come true.

You can do it. What you need is the right approach coupled with good strategies for reaching your destiny. I am happy to sign off with this, having had my first communication with a future banker. Have a great time.

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